(Photograph: Scott Eells/Bloomberg/Getty Photos (Ben Lerer); Christian Oth/New York Instances (Ken Lerer). Illustration by Gluekit.)


Generally New York Metropolis looks like a small city. So it’s when Ben Lerer arrives to dinner on a current Tuesday night time at Empellón Taqueria within the West Village. Sitting at one desk is a woman he met in Ibiza a couple of summers again. On the subsequent is without doubt one of the founders of Birchbox, one in every of many firms backed by the venture-capital fund Ben runs together with his father, Ken. And behind the bar, mixing a pair of complimentary lageritas, is without doubt one of the restaurant’s proprietors, who additionally occurs to be high-school finest associates with my finest buddy from school, explains Ben, the rumpled co-founder of bro web site Thrillist, who may nonetheless, at 32, move as a College of Pennsylvania undergraduate.

He plops down throughout from his father, who’s peering dubiously on the cloudy drink from behind a silver lock of hair. Beer-based cocktails are extra your type of factor, he tells his son earlier than taking a tentative sip. It’s good, he experiences.

You keep near your pals and the folks you belief, Ben continues. The circle will get greater as time goes on, however that’s usually our philosophy.

His scruffiness retains this from seeming Godfatherly, however the Lerers are a little bit Mafia-esque. Their firm appears to have had a hand in each buzzed-about start-up in New York: attire firm Everlane, Three-D printer MakerBot, lyrics-decipherer Rap Genius. There are 185 of them, says Ben. I may most likely identify 100.

A person in a cosy black T-shirt materializes. The Lerers are serving to him launch a start-up. Did you get my invitation? he asks. I despatched it by Paperless Submit. You guys personal a stake in that, proper? These bastards charged me. He laughs. They suckered me into it. I’d invested like 30 minutes making the nicest invitation, after which it was like, That is $50.’ Then you definitely guys most likely bought an alert in your cellphone and had been like, Yessss.

I bought like six cents from that, Ken says, then raises his eyebrows as a shriek from a close-by desk pierces the air. I really feel like I’m having dinner with these ladies, he says mildly.

This place is certainly extra his son’s type of factor: Ken’s concept had been to go uptown to assist the restaurant owned by his buddy, former Time Warner chairman Richard Parsons. The Lerers would doubtless have run into the identical variety of folks, albeit from a unique crowd. Whereas the youthful Lerer’s Instagram feed options his Ivy-league-bred, zany-hat-wearing, luxury-loft-living friends, the elder Lerer travels in additional refined circles. Greatest associates embody former shoppers of his company PR agency and cohorts from his days as a flack for AOL, the place he was tasked with speaking up the Time Warner merger he knew can be a catastrophe. It was horrific, he says. It labored out for Lerer, although. He bought his inventory on the peak of the marketplace for $40 million, then used a small fraction of it to finance the Huffington Submit, which he would later promote to AOL, of all locations, for $315 million.

His predominant associate, the Huffington Submit’s eponymous Arianna, is infamous for her appeal, however her quieter associate could be simply as beguiling. Inside fifteen minutes of assembly me, he’s extracted the identify of my toddler son and is promising to take him to a Mets recreation when he’s sufficiently old (the Lerers personal a small stake within the crew). Although much less seen, Lerer was regarded by many, together with his son, to be pivotal to the location. Lots of people get credit score for being very sensible and doing nice stuff, and I believe he’s approach higher than he will get credit score for, says Ben.

That’s bullshit, Ken scoffs.

Ben glares at his father. You need me to essentially say some stuff? I can say some stuff.

No, no, Ken says. I used to be on the Huffington Submit, and I used to be doing funding for the household. Then Foursquare raised cash. I known as Benjamin, and I used to be like, This sucks, I want I had recognized about this.’ He mentioned, You’re an fool, I do know these guys, why didn’t you name me?’ And I mentioned, All proper, we’re doing a fund.’ 

I believe you simply wished to hang around extra, says Ben.

Properly, that’s true, admits Ken. However I additionally thought it was a superb enterprise. Benjamin lives with the women and men who’re creating these firms, socially, in a approach that I by no means would. Ben knew the individuals who had the concepts; Ken knew the individuals who had the moneyand had the public-relations savvy essential to excel in a market through which worth is set virtually solely by buzz.

After the Huffington Submit bought to AOL, Ken had much more timeand moneyto dedicate to Lerer Ventures. They picked up stakes in HuffPo alum Jonah Perretti’s BuzzFeed (of which Ken turned chairman), Enterprise Insider (helmed by Henry Blodget, a buddy), and Warby Parker (whose founders are UPenn alums). He already had a stake in gaming firm OMGPop.